Friday, August 28, 2009

The path of love is not easy to walk
Littered with noise, cluttered objects, peevishness, annoyances
To walk along a forest path,
hushed boughs above you
soft grass below you,
It is easy then to feel peaceful,
calm waves of agape floating away
into the universe
So much more difficult when
stepping over piles of dirty laundry
ringing phones, bickering children,
cross co-workers, honking horns

No need then, to send it out


Love is still
all around you

Breathe it in
And set your feet straight
Back on the path again.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Setting and Spiking and Evangelism

I have been both a setter and a spiker.

These are volleyball terms, but I'm talking UU evangelism here. In volleyball, a setter "preps" the ball for another player, keeping the ball in play and lightly hitting it straight up so that the spiker can drive it home on the other side.

I knew that I'd been the spiker before. The BFF-DRE and I were playgroup friends, and I told her about my church. She'd heard of Unitarian Universalism, in fact, she had several friends who were UU. She'd never gone to a UU church, because, she says now, no one ever invited her.

I invited her. She came. Spike!

I moved to where I live now about four years ago. Over those years, I've casually told my next door neighbor about Unitarian Universalism and my church. When I saw her husband at the Democratic primary in the Obama line and she mentioned that he was an atheist, I broke every rule and blurted out, "He's a Unitarian Universalist!" (Oh, don't fuss at me.)

My neighbor is friends with another UU in our neighborhood who goes to a different UU church. My neighbor's son was spending the night with the other UU, and the other UU said, "I'll just take him to church with us, if that's okay with you." My neighbor surprised her by saying, "Actually, I'll meet you there. I've been interested in going." She now goes all the time, even going for adult education evening classes. Spike!

I was the setter.

Sometimes, we feel bad, because we aren't always comfortable being the spiker, inviting others to our church. But casually putting the information out there ... it might be more important than you think. The BFF-DRE had several setters before I came along and issued an invitation. And I was the setter when another UU came along and spiked the ball.

Just keep that ball in play ...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away ...

This morning, I was supposed to be visiting my friend Smiley. But on Sunday, she slipped into a coma and died.

She was an older lady and had been fighting cancer with an indomitable spirit for a few years. But she recently got the "nothing more we can do" and made her plans for finishing out her life with the remaining time she was given.

Like so many, I have to say with regret, "I thought there'd be more time."

And yesterday, we got the news that Little Warrior's scans were clear. We live in three month increments. Three months is a long time, man. Three months means that I can begin school tomorrow, and begin planning The Halloween party we've thrown every 14 years (except for last year, when LW was in the hospital). Three months means LW can continue Montessori and the children can go to birthday parties and The Husband can go on his fishing trip and I can continue guest preaching. Three months. It's a gift.

In all the funeral readings my friends sent me last week, there was one that I found in almost all of them:

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

Joy and woe are woven tightly together this week. Good news for my child, while a friend gracefully and gently, but too soon, leaves us. How fitting that I am scheduled to write a sermon this week about love.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

I don't believe in a God who causes people to die or survive. But when you loosen your grip on that verse, and see it more as a statement about our existence, it becomes one I can stand behind. Life works in such a way that we lose and we gain -- blessed be this gift of life.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Nutcrackers and News

About a month ago, I received a postcard in the mail. Our city ballet is pre-selling tickets for The Nutcracker.

The older two have seen it, the third has only seen a poor local version and Little Warrior hasn't seen it at all.

Shall we splurge on tickets? I asked The Husband. He thought it was a great idea. I thought about it and said, I think we should wait until after scans. He sighed and agreed.

Scans were this morning. Just got the call.

Time to order tickets.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Quote for the day

“Jesus and I agreed to see other people, but that don’t mean we don’t still talk from time to time.” – Lafayette, True Blood

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lutherans To Allow Sexually Active Gays As Clergy

Leaders of the nation's largest Lutheran church voted Friday to allow sexually active gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy.

Plans Plans Plans, but first ...

Kids 1, 2, and 3 go back to school Monday. If all goes well, then kid 4 goes back to her two-day school on Tuesday. And Wednesday, I go to my school. Daytime classes! How exciting!

But, I do have to put the caveat of "if all goes well," in there. Because what is also happening, what I carefully put away in a little box on the top shelf because I had a memorial service to officiate, is that on Monday, whilst The Husband is getting the first three all set up in their classes, Little Warrior and I will be down at the hospital. It's scan time.

You know how sometimes, everything just seems to be flowing? Like your boat is on a river with no rocks, no sandbars. Like you're headed in the right way. You use your muscles to paddle, and the effort is rewarded.

I'm there. I'm in the river. I'm impatient, sure. I began seminary 5 years ago. I've reached the point of C'MON ALREADY, LET'S GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD.

I still haven't had my first ministerial interview. First, because my church didn't have a minister, then ... well, Cancer Part I. Much later, I had an appointment set up for the ministerial interview. I also had an appointment set up for the field rep interview. And then ... the phone call. That there was a little dark spot on the scan. Cancer Part II.

Rabbi Shaman has recommended that I be interviewed by a local minister. There's one whom I've been dying to meet. I plan on calling her to see if she can fit me in.

But I wait until after Monday.

I'm all set up for classes. Paid the tuition, bought the books, read much of them already. But my cautionary mind says, well, the timing is good. If there's Something, you should find out before Wednesday, so you should be able to get a tuition refund.

No sandbars, please. No rocks. Because right now, I can only think of it in terms of another slowing of the journey.

I avoid thinking of what it would mean in the larger picture. I've cried too many tears and suffered too much heartbreak, allowing my mind to wander into horrible scenarios. I've lived enough horror. There is no need to manufacture more nightmares. And I've learned that there is no way to prepare for the worst.

I can see the path unfolding before me. Step, step, step. Phone call, an interview, print the forms, set up the assessment, schedule the RSCC.

Hopefully, achieve candidate status.

Monday, 8 am.


A Conversation in a Guns 'N Roses song. (What, you think God only talks through Handel?)

Shed a tear 'cause I'm missing you
I'm still alright to smile
Girl, I think about you every day now

Was a time when I wasn't sure
But you set my mind at ease
There is no doubt you're in my heart now

Sad woman take it slow
It'll work itself out fine
All we need is just a little patience
Said sugar make it slow
And we'll come together fine
All we need is just a little patience


Sit here on the stairs
'Cause I'd rather be alone

If I can't have you right now, I'll wait dear

Sometimes, I get so tense
But I can't speed up the time

But you know, love, there's one more thing to consider
Sad woman take it slow
Things will be just fine
You and I'll just use a little patience
Said sugar take the time
'Cause the lights are shining bright
You and I've got what it takes to make it

Need a little patience, yeah
Just a little patience, yeah

I've been walking these streets at night
Just trying to get it right
It's hard to see with so many around
You know I don't like being stuck in a crowd
And the streets don't change but maybe the name
I ain't got time for the game
'Cause I need you

God: (Just a little patience)

LE: Yeah, yeah well I need you
Oh, I need you

God: (Take some patience)

LE: Whoa, I need you

God: (Just a little patience is all we need)

LE: All this time....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Collegiality, Candles, and Funerals

Well, I just completed my first not-someone-I-knew memorial service.

Thanks to the generous sharing of materials, emails, phone calls and metaphorical handholding from some special UU ministers and other seminarians, I was prepared. I really got to experience clerical collegiality -- not that I'm a colleague yet, but they treated me as an incipient colleague. I felt nurtured.

When you are pregnant for the first time, a common concern is about who is going to see you give birth. But when it's actually time for that baby to be born, I've explained to many about-to-be new moms, you won't care if the janitor is in there. There's just other things you'll be concentrating on.

In a similar way, when I expressed concern that I would cry out of empathy, most everyone I talked to said, "Well, maybe. But probably not. There's just other things you'll be concentrating on."

And so it was.

I was at another church in town, not my own, and I'd forgotten that they have no clocks anywhere. Not in the sanctuary, not in the fellowship area. Note to self: get a new battery in one of the million of watches you've sucked dry.

You know how in cop movies, there'll be a scene where the officer yanks some innocent schmoe out of their car, hollering, "Official Police Business, I have to commandeer your car!"? Well, I did that, ripping the watch off the church administrator's arm. I hope her stitches heal soon.

The deceased was a beloved person, the kind of man who makes you envious of the people who knew him. He was beloved. Way more people showed up than anticipated. We added chairs behind the pews. We added chairs outside the sanctuary. Finally I went forward, spoke some nice words about how beloved he was, then raised my arms like Charlton Heston parting the red sea and asked everyone to slide to the ends of the pews to make more room.

Note to self: when you hear that the deceased was a popular member of a retirement community, add 50% to the number of anticipated attendees.

The family wanted to do the thing where people are invited to come forward, light a candle and share a memory. The first person, an old man with trembling hands, pulled some paper notes from his pocket.

Paper notes. Candles.

I am happy to say that no one caught fire.

Note to self: position the microphone and the sandbox of candles in such a way that the speaker will light a candle, then walk over to the microphone. Far, far away from the candles.

(I was prepared, as I watched carefully the drooping pages, to yank any burning pages away, stomp them out, and say a little sumpin' about how the deceased had a great sense of humor and he would have loved that.)

But it all went swimmingly. It is such a privilege, to be able to step in at a fragile time, and help a family celebrate the life of the person they loved, and start their own path towards healing.

I just feel so honored . It wasn't about me, I was merely the coordinator for letting in the Holy. But what a honor that is.

Monday, August 17, 2009


I have been thinking about weddings, since The Husband and I are about to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary.

I believe in marriage. I believe in weddings. Warts and all.

Whenever I talk to someone who is about to get married, I give them the following advice: The week before the wedding, no matter what happens, say, "You know, in some cultures, this is considered good luck!"

They usually give me a confused, bewildered look and say something like, "Uh, okay."

After the wedding, they thank me. Always.

Because things happen. That's just how it works. In our case:

* my car had a blowout as I drove home with my altered wedding dress
* our rings BROKE during the sizing
* I got in a big fight with my brother the morning before my wedding, inadvertently insulting his girlfriend in an effort to deliver a crude, withering comment about him
* a giant cockroach crawled across the front of the sanctuary during the ceremony

"In some cultures, this is considered good luck."

Our wedding was chockful of things significant to the two of us. His stepmother lit the chalice. His stepfather, a Methodist minister, officiated. His father and mother walked him down the aisle, my parents walked me down the aisle. "Who gives these two in marriage?" asked Rev. Stepfather. "We do," said all of our parents. If we were two 40 year olds, that might be strange, but we were 21 and 22, going from our parents' houses to our own. It was appropriate. They were giving us to each other.

We took communion, important to The Husband at that time. My father read Walt Whitman. The Husband stomped on the wine glass.

We turned to our family and friends. The Husband pulled two pairs of matching "Just Married" sunglasses from his suit and we recessed to "Here Comes the Sun."

We could not have known what life would have in store for us, these 19 years, as we cannot know the future 19 years. That's as it should be, and part of the reason I teared up watching the below video. You can't know what's in store. Celebrate your innocence, your joy.

Above all, celebrate.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Happy Sabbath!

Apropos of nothing, a dear, albeit cantankerous, friend demanded to know why I say “Happy Sabbath” on my facebook page.

I was a little startled, so I turned it around and asked why it bothered her. And we talked about her concern that I’m using churchy words. Argued, I guess, would be closer to the truth. But in all of that, I never did get around to answering her.

Here is why I say Happy Sabbath.

Sabbath, from the Latin sabbatum, from Greek sabbaton, from Hebrew shavat. Sabbath refers to a day of rest from one’s normal activities.

I am entranced by the idea of Sabbath from two perspectives that dovetail together – it is a holiday that comes around every week, and it is a day where the normal hustle/bustle is set aside so that we can focus on what is important to us.

For some, perhaps, there is a no need for a Sabbath. They spend each day focused on what truly matters, and every day, they pause to give thanks for the day.

Not me. 4 kids, a husband, his career, my school, their school, feed the cats, do the laundry, What’s for dinner?, “I have band practice,” homework, “Where’s my keys?”

I need a day. We need a day. Focus. On. What’s. Important. Life moves so fast … slow down, for a second please. Open my eyes. See it, as it’s happening. Turn off the tv, the busy work. Stop. Breathe. Make time for what is important.

To me, what is important is my family, my friends, and my church.

I have celebrated the sabbats with Wiccans and Shabbat with Jews. I’m big on celebrating. A holiday that comes once a week – Sláinte!

Because I am a Unitarian Universalist, I celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday, as that is when we hold our services. I try to make it a day set aside from the rest of the week, where we deliberately make time in our busy schedules to play together as a family, visit friends, and attend church. A day where we pause to celebrate the gift of living.

On Sunday, I celebrate the Sabbath.

And I wish for you, a Good Sabbath, too.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Friends, Ministers, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Memorial Services!

I'm doing a memorial service next week, not anyone I know. Humbly requesting your services, readings, helpful hints* and the like.

Please send to lizardeater at gmail dot com.

Muchly appreciated. At GA, I'll buy you a beer. Or a coffee. Or another drink of your choosing.

Monday, August 10, 2009

With sadness

Goodbye, Rev. Tim. Your comments, your posts, your insight, will be greatly missed here at The Journey.

Peace to your family.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Power of Prayer ... Three Years Later

A little over three years ago, I wrote on my thoughts about prayer.

I can't say that my beliefs have changed exactly. I still have a hard time believing that God could be so capricious that prayer would change the outcome of any scenario.

And yet ... I also believe that there is a power in prayer that transcends the good feelings enjoyed by the person doing the praying and the person informed that s/he was prayed for.

This week, I am doing some super-intensive praying for three friends. One waiting on her results. One waiting on her child's results. One going through something just awful.

I write special prayers. I am first a writer, then a speaker. So I write out prayers, the better to order my thoughts. The better to make my offering.

I light candles. Close my eyes. Say the words. Pray. No, harder. PRAY. PRAY!!!
I tell ya ever since he was an itty bitty boy, sometimes he talks to the lord and sometimes he yells at the lord, tonight he just happens to be yellin at him.
-- The Apostle
I pray because they are far away and I cannot hold them in my arms.

I pray because I have no power to make it better.

I pray because it is all I can do.

I pray because ... well, not because. I pray for the same reason I breathe. I don't think about breathing. Most of the time. I just do it, because I must.

I lift them up in prayer.

I send love -- the feeling for them that wells up and overflows me, I think of them and send it zinging through the air toward them.

Do they feel it? I don't know.

Does it make a difference? I don't know.

Written or not, conscious or not, with my will or against it ...

I pray.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Softly and Tenderly

Masasa started a conversation about call on Ms. Kitty's blog.

I can't say when my first call happened -- there were quiet urges, people saying, "You really should ..." when I did lay speaking, thoughts of "If I were a minister, I'd ..." and the like. I ignored the urges, blew off the comments as people just being kind, and as a parent, I knew the danger of thinking, "I'm not a ____, but if I were, I'd ..." (All parents say something similar about parenting before we become parents, and incur the wrath of the karma fairy when we discover it's not actually that simple.)

I was a mom of three, planning on a fourth. Not really something that lends itself to ministry, I explained to myself.

And then I went to Long Beach. And received what was to me, a hit-you-over-the-head, burning bush, road to Damascus call. I started this blog. Writing about the call was my first post. (I was more succinct then.) I entered seminary.

Confirmation of the call continued. Turn on the radio, it was a song about call. Open a book, it had a character being called. Seeing what I wanted to see, coincidence, divine intervention -- shrug. What others think is not important. To me, they were little gifts, tossed by the universe onto my path, breadcrumbs to keep me walking the trail.

I had a baby.

I made plans to return to seminary.

My baby had cancer.

It wouldn't be accurate to say that I lost my call. I lost the belief in any call, for any person. I did not believe in Call. I was in the desert, stripped of any belief in any force, any spirit, any concept of God. There was no mystery, transcending or no.

And then, after I had a period of healing, Spirit came back. And said, it's not just about what you want. It's both parts of the equation. You want Ministry. And Ministry wants you.

Flaming power of egotism, to feel I was called, and then called back, to ministry? I am always concerned about that. Who the heck am I to think that God/the Universe/Life Itself has called me to serve its cause, as a minister?

I still don't have an answer for that. But I feel called. If I could be satisfied with doing anything else in life, I'd do it. But this is beyond wanting.

It's call.

Friday, August 07, 2009

We were all Samantha and Ferris

There's a generation of grown-up teens feeling sad today.

They call us Gen X now, but for a while, we were the ignored generation, in terms of media. We were not the boomers, and we were before the current wave that heeded Nirvana's call, "Here we are now, entertain us." Beverly Hills, 90210 hit while we were in college. "Kids today, getting a tv show all about them," we sniffed. We could not have imagined the smorgasbord of tv shows, movies, music acts and entire television channels devoted to youth that you see now.

But someone didn't ignore us. He paid attention to us, he understood us. He made movies that empathized with our little teenage anxieties. We were all Samantha, from Sixteen Candles, and could only dream of being Ferris Bueller.

We knew the characters because we saw them every day. Everyone knew a Duckie, a Geek and every girl had been in love with a Jake Ryan.

Hat tip to Cuumbaya for finding this remembrance from a teen who actually became John Hughes' pen pal. Sounds like he was just the person we thought he was.

I know I'm not the only one who was hoping John Hughes would return for a second act, to address in his inimitable style what was happening in our lives, as he had done earlier.


Edited -- I'm watching Better Off Dead with my kids and realized -- oops -- it wasn't a John Hughes movie. Though lots of people think it was, if you google the movie. The mark of greatness, when people attribute things to you that you didn't even do.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

One is silver and the other gold ...

Through a strange planetary alignment (or maybe just coincidence), two separate old friends of mine came to town and I got to see one last night, and one today.

Trix is the one I saw last night. She was a gift from my sister, by which I mean, she was my sister's best friend first, then she and I became friends. She has had an amazing life, weaving in and out of the lives of many interesting people -- interviewing Warren Buffett, going to a meeting with Andre Agassi and having Brooke Shields answer the door.

She's had great tragedy in her life. And great joy. And along with being gifted with an amazing intellect, creativity, and tenacity, she was given an incredible singing voice and in her 20's, was a professional singer.

I'm madly jealous, can you tell?

From several states away, during Hurricane Ike, she kept in constant contact with me, via cell phone and text messaging, letting me know what was going on in my own city, when I had no electricity.

And get this ... it's been 23 years since we last saw each other. 23 YEARS! But through email and phone calls, our casual friendship deepened over the years. She's family. Though the circumstances of our lives are different -- she's a single, child-free, professional, I'm a married, mom/seminary student -- we are very alike in terms of our spirituality, our politics, our beliefs about how you should be in the world.

23 years. I picked her up at her hotel last night and drove us to a Mexican restaurant, kind of a dive. The best places (and the best people) often are, right?

Our tongues hinged in the middle, we jumped from topic to topic and back again, catching up, connecting. We held the conversations of 8 people. We are talented that way.

We hugged. And said I love you.

Today, she found out that one of those women murdered in Pittsburgh was the best friend of one of her friends. "Please make an effort to tell those you love that you love them, and do it today!!" she wrote on Facebook.

This morning, my best friend from high school, maid-of-honor from my wedding came in town. She came out to my house with her 3 big kids. How could my crazy friend be a mom of 3? It boggles the mind.

Though it's been several years since we saw each other, ours was not the frenetic conversating from the night before. It was being in the presence of someone who knows who you used to be as well as the person you are now.

In some ways, she and I are very alike. We are mothers of what are now considered "large" families -- 3 and 4 kids. We're fairly strict. Our religions are important to us.

And, over the years, we have become very different. She is LDS, very conservative politically.

So we don't talk religion or politics. We've known each other since we were 14 and 15. We know each other. And we know that any minor differences such as religious or political don't take away from that.

We talked about our families, since I know hers and she, mine -- our siblings, our parents. We talked about our art -- hers, visual, mine, written. We admitted we don't give enough time to it.

And then it was time for them to go.

We hugged. We said I love you.

Old friends.

Monday, August 03, 2009

An urgent matter of poetry

My father is a great lover of poetry. The wording of that is specific. I cannot say he is only a lover of great poetry, though he does love that, too. But great or silly, Shakespeare or limericks, he loves poetry.

As did his mother before him. My grandmother lived to be 90, and until the very end, she could still recite poetry that she had memorized as a girl.

And as does his daughter after him. I went to college partially on a scholarship for poetry interpretation, I graduated with an English degree, with a focus on poetry writing. After a surgery, when I found myself still paralyzed from the anesthesia but with my mind completely awake (thankfully in the recovery room, not on the operating table), I calmed myself by mentally reciting "Prisoner of Chillon."

Last night I received a phone call from my father at 10 pm. This caused my heart to skip a beat as a) my father rarely calls me, b) never late at night and c) the last time he called, it was to tell me my mother was in the hospital with a heart attack.

No, no, this was a different emergency. A poetry emergency.

"I can remember this poem, but I can't find it doing an internet search, and I don't remember the title or the author."


"It's something about 'I think I shall join with the cows, they don't complain, or worry about heaven,'" he told me.

No idea of the poet?

"It was one of the modern American poets. Frost? Whitman? One of those."

We talked about why he wanted to find this poem -- short version, an old friend of his pissed him off. Again. (From what I am witnessing, old men friends fight and make up, over and over, much like little girls. They are opinionated and can't resist mouthing off to each other. But they've gotten sensitive in their old age, and get their feelings hurt. But life is short, so they reach out to each other again. Lather, rinse, and repeat.)

So as you can see, a judicious application of poetry was in order.

I searched and searched, but turned up nothing. Cows ... dream ... join with cows ... stand with cows ... cows ... complain ...

He called me in a few minutes, triumphant. Forget the internet, he went to his old books and found it. Of course, there's no mention of "cows" in it. Whatever.

The poem doesn't reflect my usual attitude. But there are days ...

Walt Whitman:

"I think I could turn and live with the animals, they are so placid and self contained;
I stand and look at them long and long....
They do not sweat and whine about their condition;
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;
Not one is dissatisfied-not one is demented with the mania of owning things;
Not one kneels to another, nor his kind that lived thousands of years ago;
Not one is responsible or industrious over the whole earth."